Perhaps, while the kids or grandkids have a few days off from school, you’ll indulge in a bit of butter popcorn and Mary Poppins Returns. The film opened in theaters nationwide December 19. Mary Poppins is exceptionally well done, and I think you’ll particularly appreciate the appearances of Angela Lansbury, Meryl Streep, and Dick Van Dyke. Eileen and I enjoyed the movie from start to finish. It’s a Disney reboot of the beloved American classic from 1964 – and it’s still set on Cherry Tree Lane. This time the Great Depression has intruded, and times are tough for everybody in London. Michael and Jane are grown up now, and they’ve lost the wonder of their childhood years. John, Anabel, and Georgie are the children now.
In case you take me up on it, I’ll offer a few points of post-viewing discussion with those you love:
- It is normal to feel uncomfortable because of the changes happening around us. Can’t we all relate to that message? Whether I’m a child or a grown-up, sometimes life just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Maneuvering the twists and turns can be exceptionally difficult, especially when it feels like somebody keeps changing all the rules. It’s hard to keep up with “progress” that doesn’t feel much like progress. Many of the Disney classics espouse – though sometimes subtly – a romantic and anti-modernist worldview. Just like in the original Mary Poppins, in Returns the bank symbolizes the modern world, and it’s not such a pretty picture. (This may be a great launching pad to talk about the complexities and pressures of our contemporary culture.)
- Sometimes our worldly ambitions are not all they’re cracked up to be. This theme is reminiscent of the 1964 film, and it still holds. An unquenchable thirst for profit eventually wearies the soul. So does the relentless pursuit of rational order. Thankfully, mysterious and gracious forces are often at work to free us from the chains that bind us – namely, us. The reason that we can’t come up with a satisfying ordering of the events of this world is because what we really need is a radical restoration of the perfect and holy order which was intended all along. We need Christ to do for us, in us, and among us what only He can do as the One who is sovereign over every circumstance.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover. Redemption can come from the seemingly strangest of places. How does a young widower raise three small children? One thing’s for sure: there is a plan. It will require pressing on and sheer determination, but it’s well worth finding. It will be in Mr. Banks’ absolute weakness that he will find his unshakeable strength. Family and friends might be rallied to our aid when we least expect it.
- Even in the bleakest circumstances, there is room for hope. Faithful perseverance always matters. Believing in the “impossible” may make no sense to those around us, but we don’t answer to those around us. Courage in the face of life’s obstacles requires a steady vision even when no one else can see what we see. Sometimes we all need a friend like “Jack the lamplighter” to show us how to navigate the fogginess of life. The fog will come, but so will the light. (Hopefully this will help you bridge into the good news of Jesus, who is our Light in darkness, and whose Word is our lamp.)
- In the end, the right prevails. In the words of the movie’s song: “There is nowhere to go but up!” But you and I know the rest of the real story. The British Empire, or any other empire for that matter, is no match for God – whose Word promises far, far more than a magical and happy ending. Human history is already worked out! The conclusion of all of it is clear: it’s a fait accompli. The future is just as settled as the past – just as settled as the “It is finished” of Jesus. You and I need not doubt or fear. Christ’s gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). God will take us home to be with our Lord, forever. God wins! Speaking of the Incarnation of Jesus, C.S. Lewis wrote: “The door we’ve been knocking on all our lives will open at last.”
Which brings it all right back to Christmas. In the carol lyrics of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Enjoy the show!